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About the study
In an effort to find more information on my Fortnum family I decided a few years ago that since it was a relatively uncommon surname it could not be that difficult to reconstruct the family by using census records and any other documentation of the name I could find. Was I naive! I soon found out that there were actually more Fortnam's than there were Fortnum's out there. Not only that, but the two names were often transcribed as one when they should be the other. That really was not surprising, since I also found that some families used both spellings and even threw in the odd Fortnom. The long and short, I could not do one without the other, so my project basically doubled. But more than that, I found it really was not as simple as I had expected. It has however been fun, interesting and a huge learning experience for me and is sure to be a lifelong project. I now have over 10 major family groups, as well as many other recordings of these surnames dating from the 1500's to the 1900's. The name has been used across the globe from England to Australia, North America and more. Who knew?
Early recordings of the name seem to be primarily Fortnam, sometimes spelled Fortnham. Fortnom was used a little, but seems to have died out; and although sometimes transcribed as Fortman, this seems to be an unrelated surname, or at least in the time period I have been researching . So we now have a name that has standardized in family groups to either Fortnam or Fortnum.
I have found these surnames used by about 1200 individuals over 400 years. Using both free and pay for use family history sites I have accessed census, birth/marriage/death, military and legal records. As well I have accessed parish registers from Oxfordshire and found newspapers and publications online. I am very grateful for the assistance from other researchers and use this information very cautiously.
Distribution of the name
Found primarily in central to northern Oxfordshire the names Fortnam/Fortnum have also been popular in Warwickshire and the London area. Both Fortnam's and Fortnum's can be found in North America by the early 19th century and in Australia shortly after that. Other places include the Netherlands and India.